By Francis Ghesquiere and Olivier Mahul
This week, the Resilience Dialogue, bringing together representatives from developing countries, donor agencies and multilateral development banks, will focus on financing to build resilience to natural disasters.
There is growing recognition that resilience is critical to preserving hard won development gains. The share of development assistance supporting resilience has grown dramatically in recent years. New instruments have emerged in particular to help client countries deal with the economic shock of natural disasters. In this context, an important question is which financial instruments best serve the needs of vulnerable countries? Only by customizing instruments and tools to the unique circumstances of our clients, will we maximize development return on investments. Clearly, low-income countries with limited capacity may not be able to use financial instruments the same way middle-income countries can. Small island developing states subject to financial shocks where loss can exceed their annual GDP face vastly different challenges than large middle-income countries trying to smooth public expenditures over time or safeguard low-income populations against disasters.
Imagine you are a city official who wants to ensure all future infrastructure and urban development in your city is climate- and disaster-sensitive. The first step is to understand the natural hazards of today and tomorrow—flood, storm surge, sea level rise, etc.—and how they could impact your city. Thanks to higher-resolution geospatial datasets released this week by the U.S. Government, you will now be able to have a better understanding of the risks your city faces and how to manage them.
These newly available Digital Elevation Models (DEMs) were developed by the U.S. Government and detail the surface of the earth in 3D. By illustrating the geography and topography of an area, they enable users to quantify the potential destructive impact of water-related hazards. As a city official, you will be able to base your analyses on 3D maps showing the natural terrain and elevation of your city, which determine the path of the water.
In addition to their often devastating human toll, natural disasters can have an extremely adverse economic impact on countries. Disasters can be particularly calamitous for developing countries because of the low level of insurance penetration in those countries. Only about 1% of natural disaster-related losses between 1980 and 2004 in developing countries were insured, compared to approximately 30% in developed countries. This means the financial burden of natural disasters in developing countries falls primarily on governments, which are often forced to reallocate budget resources to finance disaster response and recovery. At the same time, their revenues are typically falling because of decreased economic activity following a disaster. The result is less money for government priorities like education or health, thereby magnifying the negative developmental impact of a disaster.
To address this problem, the World Bank Treasury has been helping our clients protect their public finances in the event of a natural disaster. The most recent innovation is our new Capital-at-Risk Notes program, which allows our clients to access the capital markets through the World Bank to hedge their natural disaster risk. Under the program, the World Bank issues a bond supported by the strength of our own balance sheet, and hedges it through a swap or similar contract with our client. The program allows us to transfer risks from our clients to the capital markets, where interest in catastrophe bonds is growing.
- cat bonds; catastrophe bonds; capital-at-risk notes program; CCRIF
- bond markets
- Disaster Response. disaster risk management
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Turks and Caicos Islands
- Trinidad and Tobago
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- St. Lucia
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- Cayman Islands
- Bahamas, The
- Antigua and Barbuda
In 1999, the state of Odisha, India, was hit by the most powerful tropical cyclone ever recorded in the North Indian Ocean, causing nearly 10,000 fatalities and US$5 billion in damages. For the next decade, the government of Odisha and partners worked to identify and mitigate cyclone risk. When the similarly intense Cyclone Phailin struck Odisha in October 2013, the region counted 99.6% fewer deaths.
We cannot prevent a monsoon or cyclone from striking – and as population growth, urbanization, and climate change are on the rise, the frequency and impact of natural disasters will increase. But with innovation, collaboration and a better understanding of risk, we can build communities that are more resilient to natural hazards.
Ellen Goldstein, The World Bank's Regional Director for Eastern Europe, talks about the Bank's response to devastating floods in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A perfect storm of disaster risk is forming at the intersection of population growth, rapid urbanization, and climate change – one that is threatening to upend efforts towards achieving our development goals.
The number of natural disasters has nearly doubled in the last three decades, with the cost of these events increasing substantially– from around $50 billion annually in the 1980’s to just under $200 billion a year in the last decade, with extreme weather events responsible for nearly three-fourths of these losses.
One reason is population growth, 95 percent of which is happening and will continue to happen in developing countries. Another is rapidly expanding cities. Growing stress on infrastructure, utilities, and housing will only exacerbate risks and undo decades of achievements in development and increase the burden on humanitarian efforts.
After more than two hours stranded at a small town train station near Tokyo, Japan, with record snowfall and freezing temperatures outside our windows, the train driver addressed us for the third time – no new updates. “Our personnel are working to fix the problem,” the voice said. At that moment, an older man seated next to me leaned over and told me, “We have to do our part; the people working in the snow are trying their best to fix the system, so we can move. We should remain calm and wait - we cannot be part of the problem.” I was starting to understand why Japanese are so resilient.
This adventure began last February, following my participation in the launch of the new, $100 million joint program between Japan and the World Bank for disaster risk reduction. This program, implemented by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), will benefit a large number of especially vulnerable countries around the world. As part of this new initiative, the World Bank also launched the Disaster Risk Management Tokyo Hub.
The launch for the Tokyo Hub was held at a high level symposium at the Japan Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) on February 3, which attracted more than 400 people and had substantial media coverage. The Senior Vice-Minister for Finance/Senior Vice-Minister for Reconstruction Jiro Aichi (a native of Sendai) spoke of Japan's commitment to disaster risk management (DRM) and thanked the World Bank for its strong support, before kicking off an intense program of inter-agency meetings to better utilize Japanese expertise in DRM practices.
My experience with Japanese solidarity and resilience, however, was best highlighted the day I was returning home. On February 9, as I was trying to get to Narita airport, more than 27 centimeters of snow fell on Tokyo and other areas of Japan, the heaviest of 40 years. Many buildings in the city collapsed, leaving at least 11 dead and more than 1,200 injured across the country.
Right now, as you read this, wherever you are, we are in uncharted territory. Our global population of 7.1 billion is headed for more than 9 billion by 2050. With our growing numbers and aspirations for shared prosperity comes a growing demand for energy to power homes, businesses, industry and transport. Our continuing reliance on fossil fuels is generating pollution and a dangerously high amount of greenhouse gas emissions – this past summer, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere passed levels not seen in 3 million years.
If you were in Beijing last week, you felt the impact in your lungs: Just 16 days into the new year, the city woke up to its first “airpocalypse” of 2014, the latest in a series of dangerously high smog days. Beijing’s mayor announced plans the same day to cut coal use by 2.6 million tons and ban heavily polluting vehicles.
That was an important local step, and we are seeing forward-thinking cities and national governments make similar moves as they develop the architecture for a cleaner, low-carbon future.
This past week, we saw our future in a world of more extreme weather as Super Typhoon Haiyan tore apart homes and cities and thousands of lives across the Philippines.
Scientists have been warning for years that a warming planet will bring increasingly extreme and devastating weather. Scientific certainty has brought climate change over the planning horizon, and the impact is now unfurling before our eyes. This level of damage, with millions of people affected, will become more frequent unless we do something about it – fast.
Negotiators from around the world are here in Warsaw for the UN climate conference to work on drivers that can spur that action on a global scale.
It is not overly complicated. We need to get the prices right, get finance flowing, and work where it matters most. But, each of these will take political will to right-size our collective ambition – for ourselves and for the people of the Philippines and the Pacific Islands and the low-lying coasts of Africa and the Caribbean who are directly in harm’s way.